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The Gallery | Design Museum's copper-cased roof

A Grade II listed building has kept its distinctive roof thanks to innovative engineering solutions employed during its transformation.

Engineering consultant Arup – along with architects Allies and Morrison, OMA, and John Pawson – worked on the development of the new Design Museum, housed in the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, which was built in the 1960s.

Arup was able to keep the building’s distinctive copper-covered hyperbolic paraboloid roof after taking an innovative approach to the work, which included suspending the 1,500t roof 20m above ground level by temporary works to allow removal of the internal structural frame and new flooring to be laid.

Assessment of the existing roof identified that any movements of the key supports had to be controlled to within 5mm to avoid damage.

“The central hyperbolic paraboloid shell resembles that of a giant manta ray in full flight. The radiating rafters of the outer warped roof add a further dimension with the building appearing to come to life as one moves around the upper exhibition space,” said Arup’s lead structural engineer Nigel Ciuffetelli.

“Its elegant construction was realised using post-tensioned concrete. This same technology, albeit further developed, was used extensively in the modern interventions.

“This astonishing roof will now be showcased as an example of great engineering design from the past and forms the ideal backdrop for the Design Museum’s exhibition space that will continue to inspire and delight all who visit.”

The building has been transformed following an investment of £83M. It includes a new two-storey basement that has increased the building’s floor space from 6,000m2 to 10,000m2 – triple the amount of space available at the museum’s former home at Shad Thames, South East London.

The new museum opens this week and will feature two temporary exhibition spaces, a library, two shops, a restaurant, café and learning studios.

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